Modern Software Experience

2011-02-01

schema.org for genealogy

genealogy microdata tags

I first came across historical-data.org back in September of last year. It is a microdata project that defines tags for historical and genealogical data.

Geni.com

The site does not identify its owner, but the domain is registered to Geni.com, so I asked them about it. At the time, they were still rather busy dealing with fallout of their most recent Geni.com Changes, but they did tell that it was a just a test. It it was they told me right after that, that was most interesting.

Back in September, they were not seeking feedback from third parties yet. They were not ready to make announcement yet either. It's five months later, and they still haven't announced a thing. They still don't seem ready to make one either. Quite the opposite. They seem ready to forget. The last update to the historical-data.org site was 2011 Nov 10. It seems like they abandoned this project after a few months.

FamilySearch

The site defines microdata tags for use on genealogy pages, such as Geni.com's pages. The site is not very exciting. It just a few web pages with specifications on it. The site does not offer examples of how to use the tags, at least not yet.

The entire site is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license, and the source code for the site is available at GitHub. A link to the GitHub repository is on the bottom right corner of every page. If you follow that link today, you'll arrive at the schema project of GitHub account historical-data. However, back in September, I discovered the historical-data.org project of GitHub user FamilySearch.

Geni & FamilySearch

So, it seems Geni.com owns the historical-data.org domain, and FamilySearch owns the historical-data.org project. So, it sure seems that they are cooperating on this microdata project.
The commit history reveals the nature of the cooperation. The FamilySearch account has been around for some time. The historical-data account was created 2011 Sep 3, and on 2011 Sep 6, user ninjudd uploaded the code for the site as project as project historical-data.org to the FamilySearch account and as project schema to the FamilySearch account. User ninjudd is Justin Balthrop, a Geni.com employee.

So, Geni.com created the site, and handed FamilySearch a copy. FamilySearch made some modifications to the project.
FamilySearch's historical-data.org was last modified on 2011 September 20. historical-data 's schema project was last modified on 2011 Nov 10. The project seems abandoned, but maybe it is simply finished for now, with FamilySearch and Geni.com concentrating on the next phase of the test.

Google genealogy search

The historical-data.org site is clearly more than a little inspired by schema.org, a project of Google and (Microsoft) Bing. Geni.com was testing the microdata on their profile pages, so that Google could see whether using the microdata tags improves indexing and search for the genealogy search product that they are working on.
Yes, that is what Geni.com wrote. Geni.com told me that Google is working on a genealogy search product.

Google search is already a great genealogy search engine. A google genealogy search engine would be even better. I readily believe that Google.com's schema.org team was interested in historical-data.org, but I do not feel as sure as Geni seems to be that Google is working on a genealogy search engine. I hope they are right, but I fear they got caught up in wishful thinking.

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